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EricF

Lawn-Boy M Series Brought Back to Life

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I'm a big fan of the Lawn Boy mowers.  Love them and I had a few of them.  They're light weight and with the two stroke engines, mowing on a hill side isn't a concern.  I wish I had another one as I sold the ones I did have.

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I have a soft spot for old 2-stroke lawn-boys, although it's a little bit of a love-hate relationship going on. When they're running right, they're a pleasure to run. When they're off, they're annoying as heck because you just know they can behave better. I've always suspected Lawn-Boy had good and bad years. It's the only way to explain why some would be trouble-free, and other identical models from other years tended to be failure-prone; that seemed to be the theme in the 80's at least, when I used them the most. The F-series one that the "M" replaced went through two worm gears for the capstan drive, despite regular lubrication and service. Others like it I've known never gave any trouble. The green-and-yellow "F" also had a carb issue, then it lost the ignition module before it finallly got traded off for the "M". The shop I was taking it to probably could have gotten it straightened out once and for all, but the "M" was just too tempting. Originally, that house's lawn was mowed with a 19" "bricktop" Lawn-Boy from the 60s. That one ran like a top and was so light it was like nothing at all to push. Unfortunately, when the relative who owned the house passed, an acquaintance of the family absconded with it... Otherwise I'd have kept that one forever. On the other hand, when my future wife-to-be got a house and needed a lawn mower, I picked up another used "F" series mower from the repair shop that was just like my old one (only all-green like a Lawn-Boy ought to be) -- and it never gave a lick of trouble. When she moved in with me, we gave that one to a neighbor when their hardware-store special gave up the ghost.

 

I mowed lawns with various Lawn-Boys... some were smokers, some weren't. The capstan drive worked well, but often needed to be snugged up with the big clamp on the actuator rod beside the handle. Pushing them uphill on rougher ground could be a chore, not because of the weight, but because the handles had a lot of up-and-down play in them which was fine on flat ground, but flopped around a lot when you pushed uphill -- for hills, the power-drive option was the only way to go. I ran one that had the electric starter -- nifty, when it worked. But that particular engine never liked to start until 4 or five spins, so it tended to run the battery down. Easier and faster to spin it with the pull-rope. The side-bagger tended to fill up fast and clogged easily if the grass was moist. Using them with the side discharge was easier, but they still could get a lot of nasty buildup under the deck. The stagger-wheel design didn't have a lot of suction or debris-clearing airflow compared to things like Toro's decks, or high-vacuum designs from Snapper and John Deere. Better blades helped, but they were never really designed for that kind of performance. That's where the "M" design really caught my eye -- A bulletproof 2-cycle engine with a high-vacuum deck and modern mulch/bag system. The four-square wheels wouldn't tend to wander like a stagger-wheel deck, especially when bagging. Even the "M"s were known for troubles with the power drive in the earlier versions. The later ones like mine had the bugs worked out. Lawn-Boys always seemed to be quirky beasts, but unstoppable if they were sorted out by a good mechanic. If you ran one that was in good condition, you'd be hooked for life on 'em!

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This is my first mowing season since about 2000 without a lawnboy in my garage.  I've had several and loved every one of them.   One I bought new in 2001 and it was the last to go.  In all those years they required such little maintenance and started right up each time.  

 

Great, lightweight, and powerful mowers.   I was really just ready for something new, but I justified getting rid of them because one of them needed a $30 coil.    In 17 years, that was the only failure I had.   Outstanding reliability. 

 

Thanks for the info on the m-series.  I had no idea they had automatic oiling.  

 

It's too bad that old-school two strokes are so dirty...what a practical and power dense little package they are. 

 

Nice story.  

 

Steve

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The "consumer" M-series had the oil injection. You'll sometimes find a "commercial" M-series and it will have the same engine but no oil injection. They use a larger fuel tank and pre-mixed gas/oil like a normal Lawn-Boy.

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In the late 60's  when I was a kid the neighbors had a green lawn boy but it was a model that had the starter cord that you pulled straight up. It always started with just a couple of those "spins" and we used to go get it and off we went  to knock on doors and offer cut neighborhood lawns for 50 cents.  We spent it as fast as we could make it on penny candy & matchbox cars! It smoked like the devil but I'm sure we were overmixing the oil/gas as we had no clue back then.  One day we had to make some quick cash for a new soda that just came out and had no oil so I "borrowed" some of dads 30 weight and away we went. Never hurted the mower abit.

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You know, one thing I miss on the "M" is the old straight-up pull start.

 

Since mine is the blade-brake clutch model, the top-mounted pull start is pointed more or less to the front left wheel... but the step ridges on the deck are at the traditional 9:00 position on the left side. Which works pretty well if you're a lefty, but if you're right-handed, you wind up pulling the rope off-center and upward instead of out at about a 45-degeree angle. So it tends to wear out the starter rope. I just replaced mine, in fact. On zone-start models, it's a non-issue; the rope pulls nice and straight out toward to the back because the pull-start cover is just rotated around to the different position. Just one of those things that kind of got lost along the way when the industry went to the zone-start system where you pull-start from behind the handle.

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You mentioned the tracking issues with the staggered wheel arrangement...

 

I just remembered that an uncle - who always had a pair of lawnboys and a Wheel Horse in his garage - had a LB that had a spring loaded wheel on that far right corner by the discharge chute.  Although I'm sure the one he had wasn't rare, I'd never seen another that had that feature.  I'll bet it was to keep it from wandering.

 

One of my neighbors made a comment after my first mowing with my new mower this spring that he noticed I had something new because of the sound.  My new mower is a 4-stroke and is more "conventional" sounding I guess.  I miss the 2-stroke buzz.

 

Ole Evinrude would be proud.

 

Steve

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23 hours ago, wh500special said:

I just remembered that an uncle - who always had a pair of lawnboys and a Wheel Horse in his garage - had a LB that had a spring loaded wheel on that far right corner by the discharge chute.  Although I'm sure the one he had wasn't rare, I'd never seen another that had that feature.  I'll bet it was to keep it from wandering.

I've never seen that, either. Was it a spring on the axle or wheel mount to keep the wheel pointed against the direction it tended to pull when the bag was full? Could have been a clever bit of DIY engineering.

 

23 hours ago, wh500special said:

One of my neighbors made a comment after my first mowing with my new mower this spring that he noticed I had something new because of the sound.  My new mower is a 4-stroke and is more "conventional" sounding I guess.  I miss the 2-stroke buzz.

I spotted one of the neighbors making a few extra trips with lawn cleanup to go where he could see what I was mowing with the other day when I had the "M" out for trimming... I think the 2-stroke sound caught his attention! :lol:

 

Of course, the 520H always seems to attract his attention, too. ;)

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520's sound great, no doubt about it!

 

I don't remember well enough to know how it was executed.  it certainly wasn't my uncle's fabrication since he wasn't the least bit of a tinkerer.  I want to say the whole height adjust quadrant was on a pivot with a spring holding it in place but it's been too many years. 

 

My uncle is the type that takes fanatical care of his belongings and he only bought the best of everything.  I haven't been to his house in years, but I should make an effort to ask if he still has the LB's...he probably does.

 

Steve

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I never understood why they let the exhaust out the bottom.  It made for one stinky lawn mowing job which you would need to detox for a week!  I owned one that required a 16:1 mix.  You could not use it without a portable respirator system.  We settled on 20:1 instead but even then it was bad.  I will agree though nothing sounds nicer!!!!  They also mowed significantly nicer than other mowers of their era.  

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On 8/5/2017 at 7:59 PM, EricF said:

Next time I'm in in the big-box store and the guy in the lawn and garden department asks if I need something, I think I'll show him this picture and say, "Nope, I think I'm all set, thank you!"

'Round here there's an old saying - "use what you have".

My honey and I try as much as possible to do so. 

I love the fact that so many of us will fix and repair a decades old machine for ... decades more, before buying a new poopie pile disposable.

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Yeah, I have an aversion to spending money on anything that won't last. Better to repair what you have -- and buy what can be repaired rather than thrown out. Funny story -- a month or so ago, the doorbell rang. It was somebody selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Sorry, can't help you, I told them -- we already have one. I don't think they were expecting that answer -- Kind of hard to sell when the prospective customer already owns one. :lol: The thing is about 25 years old and going strong. Bought it used, too; it gets checked out by the local Kirby service guy every few years. Much like a Wheel Horse, it's a machine that the parts largely interchange on across decades of production, so keeping an old one running is easy and inexpensive. My wife has asthma, so we keep the house scrupulously clean. The old machine, with the modern HEPA-grade bags I can get for it, still gets more crud and pet hair out of rugs than the new "high efficiency" and "allergy care" vacuums. Come to think of it, it's probably time to get out the metal polish and shine it up again -- can't do that with the modern plastic throwaways!

 

Update... A couple of weeks ago I went to mow. Got the Lawn-Boy out to do the trimming. No start. Checked the plug, found no spark when cranking. After running down the tests in the shop manual to check all the safety cut-outs, it came down to a bad ignition module. All of them seem to be Chinese imports now, even the slightly different-looking ones that have been the usual substitution from a German supplier. Searching for the appropriate part turned them up on Amazon, of all places, along with a new spark plug. Easy enough part to swap, but it's a pain to remove the engine shroud because you also have to loosen the muffler shroud and lift the gas/oil tank assembly. Lots of screws in hard-to-reach places. Well now it's back together and running like a champ again, just in time to chew up all the leaves that have come down plus the grass that grew up during the warm weather and rains of late. Nothing beats a 2-cycle engine for torque under heavy load -- It plowed through all the leaves and grass with the mulch plug in place, no problem at all. It's a perfect companion to the 520H for getting work done in a hurry.

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Refurbished my Lawn Boy last summer.   Bought it new about 18years ago and it was only last year that it had issues with it running. it started to run poorly and  only at half choke.    Not liking anything else available on the market, I tore it down to see if I could find a problem.   Seems the lower crank seal on the engine was tore-up.   So I decide to replace both seals, some gaskets , Brand new carburetor , fuel line , primer bulb and line , New drive belt, four brand new O.E.M. wheels and some other odds and ends .   Now it runs like New and I'm hoping I can get another 15 to 20 years out of it.    Thinking too of finding a second used one and refurbishing it :) .    Love those Lawn Boys!!

 

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